Česká centra, Czech Centres

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Feb 16, 2005 12:00 AM - May 25, 2005 12:00 AM

Forging a New Life - Photographic Exhibit by Karel Cudlín

Photographic exhibit on the Jewish experience in Central and Eastern Europe on the Cusp of the New Millenium. Opening reception February 16th, 4-6 pm.

February 16, 2005 - May 25, 2005
9:00 AM-4:00 PM
Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays


Clark University: Cohen-Lasry House
950 Main Street
Worcester, MA 01610


More info: Phone: 508-793-8897, : E-mail: chgs@clarku.edu


Karel Cudlín (b. 1960 Prague) is at the forefront of contemporary Czech photography. Graduating in 1987 from the Department of Photography at the Prague film school, FAMU, he has worked as a photojournalist for a number of magazines and newspapers (Mladý svět, Lidové noviny, Prostor) and for a short time for the Czech Press Agency. He is best known to the Czech public as one of President Václav Havel’s personal photographers as well as for his inimitably expressive photographs of various ethnic and social groups: Czech and Slovak Romani; Ukrainian laborers; Red Army soldiers leaving the former Czechoslovakia.


Cudlín’s photographs of Jewish communities — primarily from Prague, the post-Communist countries, and Israel — have also brought him deserved acclaim. Clearly discernible in his work is a natural duality of vision; it is the vision of an insider who has learned from visiting diverse locales over the course of many years how to share a space with its inhabitants, the gaze of the eternal visitor who keeps his critical distance to avoid the pitfalls of stereotyping. This detachment (determined to some extent by the “mode” of the apparatus he is operating) opens up a space for subtle irony while furthering Cudlín’s natural inclinations toward personal, tersely formulated anecdotes.


It would seem that Cudlín’s “Jewish photographs” (and likewise his photographs of other minorities) have sprung from an intrinsic need to confront the Other. Originating and existing outside the economy of his Self, they make no claims on either gratifying any measure of emotion or on discovering a satisfactory definition for his own identity, and they are free of that folkloric aspect of voyeurism whereby ones interest in Otherness becomes an obsessive search for quaint anomalies.


The majority of Cudlín’s photographs have been taken on his frequent travels, “journeys of initiation” that start at his home in the Prague district of Vinohrady, where he lives with his wife, Marketa. He usually heads east, whether it be to the nearby districts of Žižkov and Karlín or to eastern Slovakia, Ukraine, Poland, Russia, Romania, Moldavia, the Caucasus, Israel, or the Far East. Yet a recent series of photographs from New York suggests that the focus of his present interests has shifted in the opposite direction as well. As a freelancer, these trips are undertaken on his own initiative, though Cudlín also works and travels on “commission” (e.g., the series of portraits of Ukrainian Holocaust survivors, one of which is presented in this exhibition, was initiated by the American Joint Distribution Committee).


Perhaps the best way to characterize Cudlín’s photographs is by simply stating that they are, in effect, “photographic images;” they represent a kind of residual value of a gaze which is in continual flux, the gaze of a “wandering nomad.” This does not imply, of course, that the image recorded on the sensitized surface lacks complexity. The converse is true: the image carries the force of its own autonomy and points to the basic conditions of human existence (in essence the same anywhere in the world). It matters very little in what place and under what conditions the photographs were taken as they are neither prosaic documents of static situations nor an arrestment of time. What they represent instead is the extension of time beyond the borders of physical measurability. Human desire, not actual time and space, is the principle element that constitutes Cudlín’s photographic image. Desire is what gives these quantities meaning and it is the photographer-as-nomad, the flâneur, who is the bearer of desire, which keeps him in a constant state of flux, just as it does with everyone whose presence meets his gaze.


In this respect, it could be said that Cudlín’s work is marked by a continual interaction of movement and an uninterrupted stream of evanescent points of contact, boundaries made ephemeral by fluctuating identities, through which desire is formed. These photographic images, which are but a fraction of the ever-changing constellation of the outer world, carry a greater significance than we might at first suspect. They show us the extent of our own freedom and the value of our own ethnic, social, and sexual diversity; they reflect the weight of our political gestures and they communicate to us what meaning the ornament, the word, and the image hold for the construction of our own identities; they show us that we are all on the way and that such “wandering” is unavoidable, whether the original impetus is voluntary (tourism, a thirst for adventure or knowledge) or involuntary (forced migration as a result of war, famine, natural catastrophe, etc.).


Bohemian National Hall, 321 East 73rd Street
NY 10021 New York
United States


From: Feb 16, 2005 12:00 AM
To: May 25, 2005 12:00 AM


Clark University

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